About the course
The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) is the most prestigious of the Law Faculty's research degrees. It entails writing a thesis of between 75,000 and 100,000 words over a period of three, or at most four years (six to eight years for part-time students). The thesis must make a significant and substantial contribution to its field.
All students will be admitted to Probationer Research Student (PRS) status in the first instance, and all students except those who have previously completed the MPhil in Law will undertake a course in legal research methods during the first year as a full-time student or in the first two years as a part-time student. This provides training in legal research methodology, but it will also expose you to the diversity of and intellectual challenges involved in legal scholarship and serves as a forum of peers in which you can discuss the methodological challenges involved in your own research.
In your third term (sixth term for the part-time pathway), you will normally apply for transfer from PRS status to full DPhil status by submitting a research outline and a substantial piece of written work. These are assessed by two members of the Law Faculty, who will also interview you about your work. A similar exercise then takes place in your sixth term (twelfth term for the part-time pathway) when you will apply for Confirmation of DPhil status.
After three or at most four years (no later than eight years for the part-time pathway) you are expected to submit your final thesis. Your thesis will be read by two examiners who conduct an in-depth oral examination with the student, known as a viva voce. On the basis of their report, you will either be awarded the DPhil or referred back to make revisions to the thesis.
On admission as a research student, you will be assigned a supervisor with whom you should meet regularly to discuss your work and provide feedback and advice. You will also be able to take part in a range of seminar programmes and discussion groups, affording plentiful opportunities for interaction with your peers and academics working in the same or related research areas to your own.
DPhil students will pursue a range of career paths after completion of the doctorate. Many will take up academic posts, or pursue postdoctoral research of one sort or another. Some will enter legal practice as solicitors, barristers, advocates, and judges; others will become legal advisors advising government departments, non-governmental organisations and private companies.
The University of Oxford has an excellent careers service with which the department has close ties. The Careers Service organises a number of events of specific interest to students wishing to pursue a career in law, and offers one-to-one advice from members of staff with knowledge and experience specific to the legal sector.
The Law Faculty has an extensive network of relationships within the legal profession and each year offers a number of talks and events run by law firms and barristers’ chambers.
Other courses in this area
Changes to the course
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.
Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20
Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:
1. Academic ability
Proven and potential academic excellence
Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in law.
In the absence of an undergraduate degree in law, candidates may be admitted with a postgraduate diploma or master's qualification in law at Distinction level.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.
Most students admitted to the programme have a previous master's qualification but this is not a formal requirement.
If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other appropriate indicators will include:
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview(s)
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
Publications are not expected. They may, in certain circumstances, advantage an application but it is appreciated that the opportunity to publish may vary considerably depending on factors such as the stage the student has reached in their graduate career and the structure of the course(s) they have studied. Consequently, a lack of publications will not be assessed negatively.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
Part-time applicants will also be expected to show evidence of the ability to commit time to study and, if applicable, an employer's commitment to make time available to study, to complete coursework, and attend course and University events and modules. Where appropriate, evidence should also be provided of permission to use employers’ data in the proposed research project.
2. English language requirement
Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.
3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places
The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- The ability of the Law Faculty to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work.
- Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.
The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:
- The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Law Faculty and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.
- Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Law Faculty.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.
4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties
Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.
Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.
Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
6. Other information
Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.
The Law Faculty is fortunate to have outstanding library facilities provided by the Bodleian Law Library. As part of the Bodleian, the Law Library shares in all the advantages of being part of the largest university library in the country, including the receipt, under legal deposit legislation, of legal material published in the UK and Ireland. The Law Library underwent a major refurbishment in 2016 which resulted in upgraded facilities for all students.
The Law Library offers the vast majority of its holdings - some 550,000 items - on open shelves across four floors. Selected low-use material is housed in a book storage facility and is retrievable within half a day. The library serves a large community of graduate readers and academics in their research requirements. The strength of the collection lies in the depth of its UK holdings, combined with extensive holdings for European and Commonwealth jurisdictions. The international law collection is exceptional, as are the collections for Roman law, jurisprudence and official papers. Other significant fields include the US and comparative law. To complement the paper collection, the Law Library provides a remarkable range of online legal resources.
The library has 40 reader workstations, which provide access to the internet, legal databases, Microsoft Office applications and Endnote. There is a Graduate Reading Room, a large seminar room, two IT rooms and three small ‘discussion rooms’ for private study or group work. The wireless network extends throughout the library. The law librarians offer a range of classes and one-to-one sessions to support the specific research needs of graduate students.
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided. Further information about scholarships and funding opportunities available through this academic department and for this course (if applicable) can be found on the department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2019-20
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£7,665|
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£3,835|
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.
For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further additional expenses, such as travel and research expenses. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for grants from the Faculty or your College to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.
The following colleges accept students full-time study on the DPhil in Law:
- Balliol College
- Brasenose College
- Campion Hall
- Christ Church
- Corpus Christi College
- Exeter College
- Green Templeton College
- Harris Manchester College
- Hertford College
- Jesus College
- Keble College
- Lady Margaret Hall
- Linacre College
- Lincoln College
- Magdalen College
- Mansfield College
- Merton College
- New College
- Oriel College
- Pembroke College
- The Queen's College
- Regent's Park College
- St Anne's College
- St Antony's College
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St Edmund Hall
- St Hilda's College
- St Hugh's College
- St John's College
- St Peter's College
- Somerville College
- Trinity College
- University College
- Wadham College
- Wolfson College
- Worcester College
The following colleges accept students part-time study on the DPhil in Law:
How to apply
You do not need to make contact with academic staff before you apply. However, it is suggested that you consult the list of research and subject groups on the Law website to check that your research interests fall within an area in which the Law Faculty has research expertise.
You may also wish to refer to the list of academic staff for details of individual Law Faculty members' research interests.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
Around 600 words, up to two pages
You should submit a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English. The overall word count should include any bibliography.
This will be assessed for:
- the coherence of the proposal
- the originality of the project
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- your ability to present a reasoned case in English
- the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course.
It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.
One essay of 2,000 words
An academic essay or other writing sample from your most recent qualification, written in English, is required. This may be an extract from a longer piece - in such cases, the piece should be prefaced by a note which puts the work in context.
The work must be on a legal topic and written in English. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or footnotes.
This will be assessed for comprehensive understanding of the subject area; understanding of problems in the area; ability to construct and defend an argument; powers of analysis; and powers of expression.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic strongly preferred
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Academic references are strongly preferred, but a professional reference will be accepted as long as you also provide two academic references. If you are currently completing a course at Oxford, then at least one reference must be from someone who has taught you on that course.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement and motivation.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.
Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.
Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.